"The kids are ready to go," says Harper College men's basketball coach Tony Amarino.
And indeed they were for the first game of the season, which turned out to be a 67-66 overtime loss at College of Lake County in Grayslake on Thursday.
The Hawks are scheduled for their second game of the season at 3 p.m. Saturday, this one at Kishwaukee College.
Amarino doesn't mind playing away from home to start the season.
"It is better for them to get their feet wet," Amarino explained. "At our level, winning on the road is very common."
The veteran coach is excited to see what the season will hold. The next three foes -- Kishwaukee, Illnois Central and Moraine Valley -- figure to be athletic, talented teams.
"We want to play those kind of games," Amarino said. "The program wants to play as many good teams in the first half as we can."
The Hawks will be without several important pieces from recent seasons, including leading scorer Garret Gatz and solid guard John Lorenz.
Harper does have a solid group returning, though, with Michael Rose (Rolling Meadows), Tyler Gadaele (Rolling Meadows) and Stefan Vucicevic (Hersey) back in the mix.
Rose saw most of his time last year in the post as a back-to-the-basket player. Early this season, though, don't be suprised to see his athleticism on the wing.
"He's quick, runs the floor like a deer," Amarino said. "We have him on the perimiter now."
Gaedele will try to fill some of Gatz's production at guard.
"Tyler shoots it really well," said Amarino, who also called Gaedele the team's best defender in the preseason.
The team will also count on transfers from four-year schools this fall.
Brad Reibel, Kevin Sexton, Kevin Walsh and Michael Boyd, along with redshirt post player Will Botefuhr, figure to play important roles.
Botefuhr, a 6-foot-8 Prospect product, will make Harper a "little stronger inside," said Amarino, who points to rebounding as an area that will go a long way toward determining the success of this Hawks team.
Reibel and Sexton could challenge for starting spots, and Boyd will help with overall toughness.
"I don't know if we have a superstar," said Amarino, "and I don't know if I want one."
In the North Central Community College Conference, look for a veteran Joliet team to return to form after a off year last winter. Amarino expects Milwaukee, Triton, Rock Valley and Wright to each provide challenges for his team.
The Hawks host Illinois Central at 7 p.m. Tuesday in their home opener.